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20 November 2007

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News

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Thailand

Cites will be asked to ban trading in rosewood

Thailand - The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is looking for ways to convince members of Cites to ban the trading of rosewood, or payoong, a much sought-after timber in the international market.

The ministry yesterday discussed the issue with officials of the Forest and National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation departments and police, so that tougher measures could be introduced to fight illegal rosewood logging.

Saksit Tridech, permanent secretary for natural resources and environment, said the ministry has prepared a briefing on Thailand's concerns about the heavy poaching of rosewood in the country.

It was hoped it would gain support from members of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The move comes on the heels of a series of crackdowns on illegal rosewood logging.

The ministry will soon conduct a survey with the help of the Ministry of Science and Technology, using satellite imaging, to find out the number of rosewood trees in the country so that officers assigned on forest patrols can protect them from log poachers, he said.

A study by the ministry has estimated there were about 300,000 rosewood trees left in the conservation zone. There are no records of rosewood trees in the national parks.

Chalermsak Wanichsombat, chief of National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, cautioned that it may be difficult to get approval from Cites members as many of the countries still have ample supplies of rosewood and want legal trading in it to continue.

''The immediate problem we face is that we can't prove that rosewood is at risk of extinction,'' he said.

''Some countries which sell the timber, such as Laos and Cambodia, will definitely oppose the idea.

''What we should do now is try to convince them that if the logging of rosewood continues at this rate, it will soon disappear from the forests,'' said Mr Chalermsak.

Illegal rosewood logging is on the increase due to strong demand from China and Japan. Police have made hundreds of raids since October last year in which over 50,000 logs of rosewood were seized and 527 people arrested.

Most of the illegal timber was from the northeastern provinces of Ubon Ratchathani, Amnat Charoen, Yasothon, Si Sa Ket, Surin and Mukdahan.

The ministry yesterday set up a special task force to suppress and prevent the smuggling of illegal timber with the cooperation of the Environment Ministry, customs officials, police and governors. It has voiced confidence that the partnership would be able to effectively curb illegal logging. The task force's head office will be based in Si Sa Ket.

Yongyuth Yutthawong, acting environment minister, suggested that penalties be toughened for illegal loggers, and a blacklist be drawn up of the suspects both at the local and national levels.

He said over 1,500 police would be deployed to closely monitor the illegal trade, and new measures against illegal rosewood logging would soon be forwarded for cabinet approval.

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